James W. Ruby
To Pilate Jesus explained that his kingdom was "not of this world" (Jn. 18:36). The church o f the Lord is a spiritual organization having a divine origin, engaging in spiritual worship, performing a spiritual work, fighting a spiritual warfare, and enjoying a spiritual fellowship while looking forward to a spiritual destiny.
"Spiritual" is a fit- ting term to describe the kingdom, for its subjects have been spiritually born again (Jn. 3: 1 -ff), long for "spiritual milk" (1 Pet. 2:2) to bring about their spiritual growth, "walk by the spirit" (Gal. 4: 16) living a life sowing "unto the Spirit" (Gal. 6:8) and "as living stones" in a "spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:5) are to offer up "spiritual sacrifices" by their service. These who are thus "spiritual" (Gal. 6:1) anticipate the possession of a "spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:44). Other examples of the use of the term "spiritual" could be noted but these passages adequately exemplify that the point of emphasis in God's workings is on the spiritual rather than the physical.
However, it has long been man's mistake to attempt to inject his ways in matters religious, putting emphasis on the material and that that appeals to man. From Cain's presumptuous and prideful offering of the fruit of his efforts, to Israel's desire for a king like the peoples about them, and to Peter's minding the things of man, man has evidenced an inordinate regard for the physical and that which honors his vain pride. Such an attitude has fostered the seed of the social gospel with an appeal to and an emphasis upon the fleshly, seeking to sustain the physical body rather than to save the soul.
Many in the Lord's church today have fallen prey to this philosophy of the physical and thus to "build up the church," efforts are put forth that appeal to man's pride and worldly pleasure. Elaborate, ornate buildings are constructed, recreation and refreshments are furnished and hootenannies and greased pig races are advertised for ail and paid for with God's money. Secular education is supported, organizations are promoted to provide for the temporal needs of all segments of society, and great numbers of results are declaredall evidencing an interest in the physical and prideful, but bringing about only shallow emphasis on the spiritual.
By such efforts that which was once regarded as a "sect" in society are now recognized as an established and respectable "church" by denominational standards. Distinctiveness in doctrine is forfeited for distinction in the eyes of man. In the process, emphasis on the worth, dignity, and the responsibility of the individual is changed to concern for concerted action of the entire brotherhood. Spokesmen are selected for the church as a whole as it seeks to act as a united body as independence of local congregations is sacrificed.
In contrast to this attitude of elevating the carnal, there remain many who yet glory not in a social gospel but in the simple gospel, who seek not entertainment but edification, who long not for social fellowship but for spiritual partnership, who delight not in an expensive building but in a valuable temple (I Cor. 3: 16), and those who seek not to convert with trifle and promotions but with truth and precious promises (II Pet. 1:4.) These endeavor to build up the church with those who seek to adorn the spiritual man. These seek for the immortal that is eternal and long for freedom from the physical that is temporal, being interested not in the future of this world but in a future beyond this world. The way of the Lord, by those spiritually attuned, is exalted above the means of man (Prov. 10:29) as acceptability to God is their aim rather than respectability before men. Concern is expressed for fervent prayers instead of frequent projects. These promote not culture but Christ-likeness. Among these premium is placed not on a professional professor but upon a preacher of the gospel. They seek not a secular impression but a spiritual emphasis.
In the early history of the church it was said of one group of congregations: "So the church . . . had peace, being edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied" (Ac. 9:31) . This text sets forth a proper pattern for progress through emphasis upon the spiritual. These were at peace not with the world and sin but with God and self (Isa. 48:22; Phil. 4:7). They were edified by being built up in the most holy faith. These walked "in the fear of the Lord," reverencing Go] and His laws out of due regard for rightful authority. These served and lived in the "comfort of the Holy Spirit," being bolstered up by a revelation of a gospel of providential care and protection here and illuminating a home in heaven for eternity. With such foundation, reverence, dedication, and assurance the church "multiplied" then and can likewise do so now.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 2, pp. 4-5 November 1965